November 2015 MAINE COASTAL NEWS Page 25. HISTORY FROM THE PAST - Bangor Daily Commercial - Early 1900s
thorough. Step by step Mr. Libby, and Mr. Thompson proved their case, and took all responsibility from the company, and all blame from Capt. Blanchard.
In a sense the memory of Capt. Blanchard was to be cleared by that hearing or stained almost beyond hope of pardon. If he blundered at all, his was a great blunder, if he sinned, then it was against light and knowledge.
The evidence presented conclusively showed that he was fully justifi ed in sailing from Boston that night, that the indications were not such as to have kept him in port. Something else was demonstrated, that
the PORTLAND not only passed Thatcher’s Island all right, but at that time there was nothing about the weather to have made Capt. Blanchard doubt his ability to proceed through to Portland.
And it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the PORTLAND did live through the worst part of the storm, and that Sunday morning she was still afloat, steaming slowly, making that poor headway she could against such a sea, still fi ghting, if a losing battle.
That she went down soon after there can be no doubt. She was then in a thick storm, so thick that from the wave swept deck of a fi shing schooner she could only be dimly seen. It will never be known whether she then met the great coal schooner KING PHILIP, or as Judge Webb suggested, went down because she had been subjected to a fearful strain through the night and could stand no more. Some believe with Judge Webb that she was lost because of the great perils of the sea that night while others hold that she met the KING PHILIP. Certainly this much is true that wreckage from the two vessels came ashore together.
But there was not a bit of evidence connecting the company with the sinking of the PORTLAND, and just as little calculated to show that there was the least degree of responsibility on the part of Capt. Blanchard.
Nor was the weather bureau in fault. They knew of the storm coming from the west, but they did not know, and could not have known of the storm “sweeping” as Mr. Libby said “up from the South Atlantic.” Where that storm originated no one knows, but when it joined that from the west, it swept the coast of New England as it was perhaps never swept before.
There was no way by which information of the coming of that storm could be obtained. Had that storm been alone, had it not been joined by the storm from the west, the PORTLAND would have come through in perfect safety, but the storms joined forces and the sea was stirred as it had seldom been stirred before. A western cyclone, destructive as it is, is still a local affair, confi ned within narrow limits, and therefore its power to do mischief is correspondingly restrained, but the two storms when they met and became one, swept a wide area of the pecan, and tried hard to win a lasting victory on the land. No storm of such magnitude had visited this coast for a generation, and it may before a much longer period of time.
But when Capt. Blanchard sailed there was no great sea, and no great wind, if any wind worth talking about. He knew but he did not know of the other strom. He went on, taking as he believed no rish, an d no one who knew him doubts that when he did run into the storm, and when he did comprehend the mistake he made in his calculations, that he did everything a skillful navigator, and brave man could do to save his vessel, and that he died at his post we must all believe. His thoughts may have been with his loved
ones, but his hand was on the wheel. And from that prolonged and thorough hearing, the company emerged unstained. The cruel report that Mr. Liscomb ordered Capt. Blanchard to sail that night, a report never for a moment credited by those who knew him, ended then and there. Capt. Blanchard received the suggestions made to him by Mr. Liscomb that he remain in port, and he gave due weight and consideration to what was said to him by Mr. Williams in the name of the general manager of the line, he did not act rashly, but when convinced that he could come through ahead of the storm, he sailed. He acted within his responsibility, in accordance with his best judgement, and as any other master in his position would have acted.
And at last after an examination as thorough as that of any case tried here for years, as thorough as it could have been had there been an opposing attorney to have cross-examined the witnesses, the court found that the PORTLAND was lost because of the perils and dangers of the sea, and that no one was in fault. It was in other words the act of God, and not of man. A Well Managed Case.
The case was well managed by Mr.
Libby and Mr. Thompson, and showed in all its stages the result of the most thorough and careful preparation. Point after point was met not by a single witness, but by many, and point after point was met not by a single witness, but by many and point after point, rumor after rumor, “vanished into air,” as Judge Webb said.
The care and thoroughness with which the case was prepared, was shown many times during the hearing. The large amount involved, the fact that the very life of the company was at stake, and the nature of the evidence, all helped to make the case notable.
The summing up by Judge Webb, was a masterly bit of work. There was no escaping from the conclusion that the court was absolutely right. Step by step, stage by stage, he carried the evidence, until the words of the decree were expected by every one who listened to him.
It certainly is to be hoped that Portland will never see a like case again. The sympathy of the public went out in that moment of general sorrow, to those who lost friends on the PORTLAND, and ample and generous fi nancial aid was promptly extended. Portland was a city of mourning then, and it is a city of gretful memories now, but still it is a pleasure to know that it was fi nally and judicially settled that for the going down of the steamer there was not even a trace of responsibility on the part of any man living or dead. Congressional Outlook.
Just now there seems to be a general agreement that Hon. Amos L. Allen, is ahead in the contest for Reed’s place, that is, if so one sided an affair can be called a contest. The long and short of it is that the situation is still the same. No First district Littlefi eld has appeared to dispute the succession with Mr. Allen. He is likely to be nominated to look after postoffi ce appointments, and the like, and that without any strong opposition to his nomination. He is probably all right unless the contest between the two sections of York County becomes more marked than it is at present, and the delegation more evenly divided when the convention meets than seems likely to be the case now. As far as can be seen Mr. Allen will get it hands down unless ex-Gov. Cleaves is induced to come forward, and to take the nomination. He could, of course, win out against all opposition, but he doesn’t want the place, and the fact is generally known.
If nominated it will be because the district insists on his taking the nomination. But all this is of course subject to one thing, that Thomas B. Reed, concludes to resign. Again in the Field.
These days Wm. A. Roberts, of Biddeford, is a frequent visitor to Portland. He is getting ready to revive his daily paper once more, and promises to make things lively in his section of this district. He believes there is a fi eld for his paper in Biddeford and Saco, and there is probably nothing in the constitution of the state of Maine to prevent any man from stating a daily paper anywhere in the state providing he feels like doing it.
The re-appearance of Mr. Roberts
in the fi eld as an editor, will be rather an interesting event. Before the campaign of 1896, he bought a strong Republican daily paper, and at once, without warning on his part of the coming change, made it a red hot Democratic paper. Those who remember the ancient Democrat, published by the famous “Brick” Pomeroy, will recall how “Brick” sometimes assured his readers that his paper, then red hot, was sure to be hotter, and so every number of Mr. Roberts’ paper was more aggressive than all the preceeding numbers.
He took a gold paper, and made it a free
silver organ, a Republican paper, and made it aggressively Democratic, a staid family paper, and made it pretty much all lurid policies.
Of course under such circumstances there could be but one result. The Republicans wouldn’t take a Democratic paper, and Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to think of it as a Democratic paper, and it is safe to say that it will be bright and aggressive. The experiment will be watched with some interest by politicians in this section of the district. There is a rumor that Mr. Roberts is in training for the congressional fi ght, but of that he says nothing, and there may be nothing in it.
The farmers’ movement started by Wm. H. McLaughlin, is still moving, and promises to be very different from small beer before he gets through with it. From all over the state he is receiving letters, and in this sectin it is admitted that he had stirred the farmers up, and that they are getting ready to put in some effective work.
* * * * * A Boy Commander
Biggest Sailing Ship Afl oat in His Charge.
Capt. Murphy of the SHENANDOAH Tells Some Experiences. Rounded Cape Horn at the Age of 16 Months – Nearly Caught by Spaniards. The Leslie Syndicate which serves the Commercial has under a Port Gamble, Washington, date the following story which will be of interest to Maine people and to many Bangor citizens from the fact that the article has reference to a young man well known in this city:
It can only be given to two persons to be the youngest ship captain afl oat and the skipper of the largest sailing vessel in the world. When, therefore, these two exceptional honors are enjoyed by a single individual, the combination is rare enough to make that individual a fi t subject for the interviewer. I found James W. Murphy, master of the fourmasted sailing ship SHENANDOAH, to be even more youthful than I had expected. He looked positively boyish, and as I took seat in his cosy cabin and accepted a proffered cigar I might have been disposed to presume on the grizzled stubble of the reportorial temples to put on a patronizing air, but for a certain bold
confi dence in the clear eyes and fi rm jaw that gave an oldish look to the smoothshaven face.
“My experiences on the ship SHENANDOAH,” began Capt. Murphy “are the usual ones met with in a sailor’s life, which is made up mostly of nothing more exciting than hard work and salt beef. I hardly think that an autobiography at my age would be consistent. However, if it would be of any interest to know my experiences, it is no trouble.
“My people being seafaring folk, it naturally fell to my lot to go to sea rater young. My fi rst passage around Cape Horn was made at the tender age of 16 months and I have been on the sea most of the time since then, with the exception of eight years spent in school at Bath, Maine, my home. I have been on several ships, the YORKTOWN, W. F. BABOCK and SHENANDOAH, and can give you many little experiences, more or less interesting.
“I have served in various capacities on my present ship, the SHENANDOAH, in the past four years that I have been on her, and have encountered the usual number of storms, head winds, calms, etc., on our long ocean passages to and from England and the continent, to New York and San Francisco. Our reported capture by a Spanish cruiser while on our way to Liverpool from San Francisco, off Queenstown a year ago, furnished a little excitement for us. “Our cargo of coal this time from Baltimore to San Francisco caught fi re on the way, and kept us pretty well occupied in putting it out. Serious damage to the extent of $20,000 was done to the ship and we were delayed a long time making the necessary repairs.
“On another occasion we were within a little of coming to grief on a mountain of fl oating ice that crossed our watery pathway. It was of enormous extent and we had to use our most skillful seamanship to escape disaster on the icy derelict. The most exciting experience I have ever had, however, was the meteoric incident of our voyage. We were proceeding without a thought of danger when suddenly there was a rush through the air like the descent of a mighty mass coming down with prodigious speed. It shot past our bows and plunged into the sea, leaving us gazing at each other with startled eyes, wondering what had come so near striking us. It dawned on me at last that we had been saved by a margin of a few feet from being sent to the bottom by a gigantic meteor. This was my fi rst experience as a target for the heavenly artillery, and I hope there will be no repetition of it during my sailor life.
“These are a few exciting incidents, but taken all in all a sailor’s life is one quite free from the experiences quoted by some writers, and really is a very monotonous existence while on the water. Of course we have to run in danger at times, and that constitutes about he only variety, taken together with the constant changes in the elements. “We are now loading lumber for Port
Pirie, Australia. After our arrival there, we proceed to Sydney and take coal back to San Francisco again. The lumber we carry for the extensive coal mines of Austrailia, and we shall take between two and three million feet of it.”
The following dimensions and particulars of the SHENANDOAH were furnished by the boy captain: Length, 325 feet over all. Breadth, 50 feet over all. Depth, 30 feet over all. Net tonnage, 3,154 tons. Cargo capacity, 5,000 tons.
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